The game of golf is meant to be fun. However, the golf courses we will be showing you today are considered some of the toughest in the world. Unless you are a professional, these next 10 golf courses will leave you completely frustrated, thrilled, and exhausted all at the same time.
Let’s Dig In.
We’ll start off in Oahu, Hawaii at the Ko’olau Golf Club. This course looks as if it was dropped into the jungle from the sky. Built in 1992 for around eighty million dollars, this 7,300-yard course is a monster in the jungle. There is thick jungle lining most of the fairways, 6 large ravines that will swallow up hundreds of golf balls daily, and the soggy conditions make this course one of the toughest in the world. The course record is 67 by PGA tour Pro Dean Wilson. When Ko’olau Golf Club opened the USGA gave a difficulty of 162. So a USGA team was sent to dig deeper as the upper rating on their scale is 155, and they actually ended up raising the difficulty of 172! The course actually was frustrating so many golfers that they had to make alterations to the layout to make the course remotely playable for common golfers.
Let’s head to Scotland where the game of golf originated. On the SouthEastern coast of Scotland sits a golf course that has been given the nickname of “Car-Nasty”. Carnoustie Golf Links course has hosted 8 Open Championships, 2 Senior Open Championships, and 1 Women’s British Open. Carnoustie has reduced men to tears after playing (see Sergio Garcia in 1999). Because of the North Sea wind gusts coming off the coast, the tight fairways and no two holes in a row face the same direction, this course has golfers continuously re-evaluating their strategy. We haven’t even talked about the snaking burns, the extremely difficult bunkers, many of which are placed very strategically in the middle of fairways and landing areas. So in combination, the bunkers, burns, the very bumpy and unequal ground fairway, and finally the WIND makes Carnoustie one of the hardest courses in the world.
Heading over the pond to the US, we are landing in the midwest at Whistling Straights in Kohler, Wisconsin. Crafted by Hall of Fame designer Pete Dye, Whistling Straights is located on the site of an old artillery range, and has hosted three PGA Championships, one Senior Open, and will host the 2020 Ryder Cup. Whistling Straights is a par 72, and has a distance of 7,500 yards. The seas of rolling fescue grass, the over 900 bunkers, and landscape that is ANYTHING but conventional, Whistling Straights is a links course that will bite even the most experienced golfer.
Next, we’ll head to the far East to China which holds the 2nd highest elevation golf course in the world: Jade Dragon Snow Mountain Golf Club. Sculpted in the valley of the Himalayan Mountains, the course plays at over 10,000 feet above sea level. The course is also the longest par 72 course in the world at over 8,500 yards, and has a par 5 that is nearly 800 yards! Designed by course architect Neil Haworth, the front nine offers more of a Scottish style, while the back is more of a mountainous design. The course is so challenging not only because of the length but also the lack of oxygen while playing. At least they have traditional soaking tubs at the clubhouse because you’ll need a nice warm bath after a round here.
1200 miles off the southeastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean, Bernhard Langer designed an extremely beautiful, but difficult golf course. Every hole offers of a picturesque view of the beautiful Indian Ocean, but you will need these little moments of delight when playing the Ile Aux Cerfs Golf Club. White sand bunkers, volcanic rock, nine lakes, gullies, a jungle of foliage, and undulating topography will challenge your every shot. You can forget your car, as you will need to take a boat shuttle, which leaves every 20 minutes to and from the island.
Heading back to the great state of New York in the US, Bethpage State park offers 5 amazing golf courses that are color-coded. Bethpage Black is the most feared of all the courses and even offers golfers a warning sign that reads: “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.” Designed in 1936 by A.W. Tillinghast and called the course “a vicious brute of a golf course”. Bethpage Black has hosted two U.S Open’s, The 2019 PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup will be hosted here as well in 2024. Now that we all agree that this course is a juggernaut, our advice to you is to leave your ego at the clubhouse and just enjoy the golf course. The narrow fairways, massive bunkers, plateau greens, tangly rough, and the fact that you can’t use a golf cart on the 7,400-yard course all make up the fact that it is extremely challenging even to the most skilled golfers in the world.
Let’s take a trip to Northern Ireland at a course that is frequently voted one of the Best Golf courses in the world. Royal County Down in Northern Ireland is not only considered one of the best courses in the world, but also one of the hardest. The 7,200-yard par 71 course is absolutely stunning and brings a real “Beauty and the Beast” element to your golf experience.
The fairways are extremely narrow, and lined with purple heather and golden yellow gorse which is gorgeous, but very tough to recover from. Most of the greens are domed, which will send your approach shot into a difficult bunker and many shots are blind so a local caddy will be extremely valuable. As you would expect from Northern Ireland, the wind can be almost impossible to play in and even the giant sand dunes won’t protect you. We suggest enjoying the scenery, grab a cocktail and a nice meal at the Murlough Bar after your round to unwind and enjoy the view of the 10th tee and 18th green.
Taking a trip to the Southeast United States, we arrive in South Carolina at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island. Another Pete Dye designed course with subtle hints of his wife Alice’s influence that plays very long at 7,900 yards. The Ocean Course has hosted the PGA Championship, the Ryder Cup, and the Senior PGA Championship. The links-style course is so difficult because of the combination of Atlantic seaboard wind gusts, huge sand dunes, thorny marshes, fiendish pot bunkers, and superslick greens will reduce even the game’s best to frustrated wrecks. From one round to the next, a player can experience up to an 8-club difference on holes depending upon the wind’s direction and strength.
For our next track, nicknamed “the cobra”, we head to Malaysia to the Palm Course located on the Western portion of the country. The course got its nickname because it is built on an old oil palm plantation and workers released cobras to control the rat infestation, however, we think it’s more of the fact that the layout will bite you at any moment. The difficulty arises in the changes in elevation, the jungle palms lining the fairways, and waiting to reach out and grab your ball, and even the occasional monkey keeps you on your toes from the first to the last hole. The Cobra’s super-fast, heavily undulating putting surfaces are probably the hardest to putt on in the world, but luckily they have excellent caddies who know the course inside and out and can help.
Finally, we are setting our sites on New Zealand, where legendary course designer Tom Doak created an amazing golf experience at Cape Kidnappers. Completed in 2004, the Par 71 course isn’t the longest at 7,150 Yards, but will challenge any golf skill level. This course isn’t just tough, but it can also be very dangerous, with cliffs that provide drops of up to 600 feet straight down into the sea. Because of the elevated nature of the course, you are entirely exposed to the elements of wind whipping off the Pacific Ocean. Ruffled fairways on the front nine, throw tee shots into the rough and even good approach shots can bounce on the putting surface and then run into deep greenside bunkers.
Unfortunately it only gets tougher on the back nine, although spectacularly beautiful, with narrow strips of fairway running between those cliffs and yawning chasms filled with scrub, rough and trees. This course offers holes unlike anything you find elsewhere in the world, and while your handicap might go up, your thrill of playing one of the best golf courses in the world will make it all worth it.
What is the hardest course you have ever played? Let us know in the comments!